In Homer’s great epic stories, The Iliad and The Odyssey, he describes Ulysses’ voyage homeward when his ship sails near the island of the lotus-eaters. The siren’s song wafts across the ocean, hypnotizing the sailors and causing them to steer off their course towards the sensuous sound.
Ulysses’ efforts to keep the ship on course were of no avail. Sailors leapt off the ship and madly rushed to drink the lotus elixir poured down their throats by the most beautiful women imaginable. Soon the anesthetic and hypnotic nectar dulled their senses, glazed over their eyes, and they fell into a sensuous, eternal trance.
Ulysses tried to stop the melee, and himself barely resisted the beautiful women lotus-eaters. Badly shaken, he managed to escape to continue on his arduous journey home. He made it; but most of his crew didn’t.
Osho, will you speak about the significance of this story to the seeker? Is there a siren’s song of sannyas?
The story is almost factual; it is a parable. On the way to truth one comes across many spaces which can stop the seeker because the joy, the pleasure, is really hallucination. One has to be continuously aware of beautiful experiences on the way, because no experience is of the truth.
Truth is not an experience.
Truth is when all experiences have passed away. It is pure isness.
There are moments in meditation when one feels as if one has arrived – now there is no further to go. It is so fulfilling and one has never experienced anything like this before. It is inconceivable that things can be better than this, that there can be more pleasant, more blissful experiences.
One of the most famous books, and one of the first ones that appeared in the West on Zen, was Christmas Humphreys’ ZEN BUDDHISM. He really wanted to give it the title GO ON. He mentions it in the introduction, but it didn’t feel very appealing, GO ON, so he changed the title. But GO ON was more appropriate.
Gautam Buddha’s constant use of it makes it emphatically significant. Whenever somebody would come to Gautam Buddha and would describe his experience of his meditation – how beautiful it is, how joyous he is feeling, how blissful he is – in the end Gautam Buddha would say, “Go on, don’t be stuck by it; there is much more ahead.”
And this was a constant thing, whatever you would bring to him he would say, “Go on. Don’t stop. I know you want to stop because you cannot conceive what more there can be, but I know there is much more.” And one day would come when the disciple will approach Gautam Buddha, touch the master’s feet, sit silently by his side. And Buddha would ask, “How is the experience going?”
And he would start laughing and he would say, “You pushed me and pushed me and pushed me. Now there is no experience at all, just a pure isness. The beauty of it, the benediction of it, is qualitatively different.
”You cannot say ten thousand times more, that will not be right; no quantity will be able to describe it. It is qualitatively different, and I have come just to thank you for your patience – I went on coming with experiences, and you went on sending me back with only the same one sentence, ‘Go on. Don’t stop.’”
Because of Gautam Buddha’s “Go on,” Christmas Humphreys wanted to use it as the title to his book, but he finally changed it, thinking that it would not appeal in the market. And perhaps he was right; “Go On” seems to be very flat for a book title.
This parable, Homer’s story, has not been understood in the West the way it has to be understood. It is the story of spiritual growth. You will come many times to stages which give you the feeling that the time has come to stop – because the experience is so much that it is beyond your comprehension that there can be anything more.
So the mind which has always been telling you, “More, more” – for everything was asking for more – suddenly stops. It cannot comprehend there is more. And that is the point when the master wants you to go on: “Don’t be addicted to any experience, howsoever beautiful, don’t become a lotus-eater; otherwise you will be unconscious – blissfully unconscious, blissfully asleep.” But you had not started the journey for this. You were going to reach yourself, fully awake.
The parable is simple if understood in the right way, but the parable must have reached Homer from the East. That’s why in the West there is no explanation for it: it is just a story, a beautiful story.
It is an actual existential, experiential factuality of human growth towards the ultimate meaning of life.
So remember only one thing: Go on, until there is nowhere to go, until there is no one to go, until you have exhausted everything – the road, the goal, the traveler, all have disappeared – and there is just pure silence of isness.
From The Transmission of the Lamp, Chapter 27
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